* Estimated $5 bln tender cancelled after no bids
* Minister says project to go ahead
* Global economic woes drive financing worries
(Recasts lead, updates with tender cancellation)
ISTANBUL, Jan 10 Turkey on Tuesday
cancelled a tender for an estimated $5 billion highways project
after builders blamed an international funding crunch for
scaring off bids for the scheme, which included a third bridge
over the Bosphorus strait between Europe and Asia.
Turkey's transport minister said the government would
proceed with a back-up plan for the highway looping north of
Istanbul but gave no details.
Financing issues have already blighted privatisation
projects in power distribution in Turkey with only one in five
acquisitions being completed following tenders.
A senior manager at a Turkish company initially interested
in the highways scheme said the government might offer the
project in parts.
"Financing such a large-scale project is impossible under
current market conditions. The project could be divided into a
few smaller projects," he said.
UniCredit Securities analyst Sule Kilic said the
cancellation was no surprise.
"Investors have to think twice in the face of such high-cost
projects," she said.
"It will take around two years to complete the financing of
such a big-scale project, plus there are technical details to be
clarified on this particular project."
The tender for the 414-km North Marmara Highway project
initially drew interest from 18 companies from Japan, Russia,
Spain, Austria, Italy and Turkey. The winner would have had
operating rights for 25 years.
A senior official from one company said the global financial
environment made it hard to line up funding.
"The ongoing crisis in Europe, the slow economic recovery in
United States, and the difficult times China and Japan are going
through makes financing difficult for this project," he said.
"There's no problem with the tender specifications, but the
time to secure financing is limited."
Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters
earlier in the day: "We will put our second plan into action if
we receive no bids."
Later Ihsan Akbiyik, tender commission head at the General
Directorate of Highways, told reporters in Ankara: "We have
received no bids for the tender and thus the tender is
Obayashi, Mitsubishi, Itochu and
IHI from Japan, Astaldi of Italy, Moskovskiy
Metrostroy and NPO Mostovik of Russia, Stradag of Austria, FCC
Construction of Spain and Turkey's Mapa, Cengiz, Park,
Varyap, Yuksel, Kolin, Nurol, STFA and Gulsan all acquired
official documents for the scheme.
The projected highway will connect Adapazari on the Asian
side of the Marmara region to the Tekirdag region on the
A third bridge over the Bosphorus, complete with a railway
track, was also part of the project.
It would have been Turkey's second largest project under the
($1=1.8680 Turkish lira)
(Reporting by Mustafa Seven and Evren Ballim; Writing by Ece
Toksabay; Editing by David Cowell)